GRAMMAR OF THE SINESIP LANGUAGE
1. Vowels: a, e, i, o, u.
Diphthongs: ai, ei, ou.
Consonants: w; r, 1, nr; k, nk, c, gh, gk, gc, g; t, tr, d,
nd, n ; mp, b, mb, m, mw ; v, sh, rs ; s ; h.
Compound Consonants: bw, mbw.
2. Sounds. I have no information as to the sounds of
Sinesip, but there is Httle doubt that they follow the Presby-
terian alphabet. Thus the vowels probably have the proper
ii] The Central New Hebrides 303
sounds. The diphthong ou is probably put for the more correct
aUy 'thousand' is spelled *tousand/ Of the consonants nk and
gk appear to represent the same sound, that of nk in *sink';
c the hard g in *go'; gh the * Melanesian g'; gc the ng in
* finger.' The others are sufficiently represented by the com-
3, The demonstrative article is na with a changing vowel as
ne and m: nahal^ path; naaiy tree; netis^ sea; nevity stone;
ntvuny his wife; nimahaly fish; nimomo^ woman; nimoroty man.
4, The personal article i seems to remain in the interroga-
tive : ia ? who ? There is also found : isaurUy the seven (persons).
5, There are the usual two classes of nouns. The first in-
cludes personal names and parts of the body.
6, Form. A verbal noun is formed by prefixing the article
and suffixing ten: misy to die, nimisiefiy death; tevuHy to bury,
nitevunietiy a burying.
The same construction may be made with adjectives, or with
verbal phrases: nisampietiy badness; neherher mahalieriy fishing
(heTy to take, catch, mahaly fish).
The infix s after the article forms a negative noun: rogdaUy
to believe; nirogdauieny faith; nisrogdauieriy unbelief.
A personal noun is formed by the prefix mor, and with the
adjective prefix tiy tra to the verb or adjective: mortirary a doer;
tnortivianay a thief; morirasampy sinners; mortieiy his man,
The preposition nin is used with verbal nouns: nitnor nin
nivihinkietty person of teaching, a teacher; tnornin niambwiietty
sower (ambwty to sow).
A negative appears in Mnagk morve tieiy I (am) not his man.
An instrumental noun does not appear. In the gospel: naai
nin kandely candlestick ; naai sumpasumpy seat (sumpy to sit). But
at is the word for * tree, stick, wood,' as Meaun n-eiy Kuliviu hei,
7, Number. The plural is shown by the pronoun ar following
the noun, the dual by iru or ruar: neta aty the things; tesen ary
his brothers ; nimorot ary men ; nindilgin ruary his ears ; nilius irUy
304 The Central New Hebrides [pT
8. Gender. Nimorot^ male; ntmomOj female. Mariy male»
and vuriy female, may be suffixed: tina-mariy her husband;
tinivutiy his wife; nivutun, son; nivutun vutiy his daughter.
9. Vocative. In speaking of one^s own parents tatai is used
for *my father/ and amo for *my mother,' instead of the
common nouns feme and hine.
Full forms :
Plur. I incl. nigcint. Dual i incl. —
I excl. camem, x excl. rumem,
2. nigcim. 2. ruum,
3. ar, 3. rtiar.
These are used as subject or object of the verb. When
subject they must be followed by a short form.
Short forms used as subject of the verb :
Sing. I, nigcay nigce^ Plur. i incl. da, de. Dual i incl. —
niy na, no. 1 excl. wi, me, 1 excl. mur.
2. cu, 2. agcu. 2. arce.
3. cuy ce. 3. re, ra, tra. 3. wr.
These may stand as subject of the verb without the full
11. Short forms suffixed to nouns. In Sinesip these appear
only in the second and third person singular.
Sing, 2. m. Sing. 3. «.
Nivaramy thy hand; hinanty thy mother; metetty his eye;
temeriy his father.
In the first person singular the noun takes no suffix, but the
final vowel is changed more or less in harmony with the first
vowel of the word-base: nehey my name; veney my sister; tesUy
my brother; nivutUy my son; nivarUy my hand.
In the plural and dual numbers n is suffixed to the noun and
the full form of the pronoun follows : nivaran cameniy our hands ;
nivaran ar, their hands; nitneten aty their eyes; temen nigcint y
12. Demonstrative. ligky this, tagy that, asigky this, titgky
this: netaiigk aty these things, those things; nilius tagy that day;
nimorot asigky this man; asiigk at renoy these are like; tinoiigky
like this; ei nimorot tagy he is that man; asigkve? is this not,?
ii] The Central New Hebrides 305
13. Indefinite. Ttum^ some, halatiy another, morsuy all,
nisteUy anything: neta tuatiy some things; neta morsu tiigky all
these things; ar morsUy they all; halan rezver^ others said.
14. Interrogative. la ? who ? la ivihi kinagk ? who touched
me ? nehem et ia ? who is thy name }
Nihava? what? Nihava neushur? what do (shall) I ask?
nihava nivihinkien tivivau tiigk? what new teaching is this?
5. The Genitive
15. When the second of two nouns in juxtaposition qualifies
or explains the first it takes the adjective prefix : nisivilen tikamely
camel hair; helium ti Saimotiy into Simon's house.
16. Nouns of the first class when governing a following noun
in the genitive take the suffix n: nelen tuan^ voice of someone;
nipisran naaij branch of tree; nimbun nauagky stern of ship;
nimbatin JoHj John's head; tivsun haly side of the path.
With names of relationships the genitive comes first : nimorot
nivuturiy man's soix\ James teseriy brother of James ; Salmon hinetiy
Nouns of the second class governing a following noun in the
genitive are followed by the preposition nin: namolnin nimbuaSy
a herd of pigs; nitiptap nin nivutun ar, bread of the children;
nevit nin mily stone of the mill.
17. When nouns of the first class govern a pronoun, a short
form of the pronoun is suffixed in the second and third person
singular, and the final syllable is modified in the first person
singular. The dual and plural pronouns are treated as nouns :
tesUy my brother; tesuMy thy brother; teseny his brother; nivaran
camemy our hands; nivaran aty their hands. See § 11.
18. When nouns of the second class govern a pronoun the
particle ti is used as with adjectives, the pronoun is in fact used
as an adjective. The forms found are:
Sing. I. tigkinagk, Plur, i incl. tinigcint,
2. tinunk. I excl. —
3, tiet, 2. —
3. tiar. Dual 3. ti ruoTy truar,
Niium tieiy his house; belium tinunky into thy house; beium
tiaty to their house ; niravilil trtiaty nets of them two ; disaipel
tigkinagk ar, my disciples ; nimeaurien ti nigcinty our lives.
3o6 The Central New Hebrides [pt
Sometimes nin is used instead of ti: neium nin at tre-vivinau,
house(s) of widows (them widowed) ; nahal nin nunk^wsy of thee ,
thy way ; nisampien nin nigcim^ trespasses of you; nimorvaal nin
nunky thy enemies.
19. There is some inconsistency in the translation, for I also
find nin and ti with nouns of the first class governing a pronoun :
nivohon nin kinagky my body; nimeten nin nigcintj our eyes.
20. A few words appear with a prefixed possessive pronoun :
nagcu-vagasieny my words ; nugceiunty my house ; nigcu-rovUy my
lord ; nimo-rogdauietiy thy faith.
21. Form. A few simple adjective word-bases appear: le^
good; lampy many; sampy bad.
Some adjectives appear in a reduplicated form especially
when derived from nouns: hethety evil; wutivuty stony.
A few traces are found of obsolete prefixes: mehey sick;
me-auTy alive; me-vusy white.
22. The adjective generally appears with the particle //. In
the plural this is combined with the verbal particle rUy rCy etc.,
often abbreviated to tray tre. The adjective thus formed may be
used attributively or predicatively : neten tiky ground good;
nimbuluei tivivaUy skin new; neta trasampy things bad; nelen
timbaUy voice loud (lit. great); neta tirombumbaUy things great;
mortremeSy people who are dead.
The particles tiy tiray etc. may be prefixed to any verbal
phrase to indicate a qualification: ei tirogdaUy he that believes;
ar tralog human y they that went before; nihumor tisiseresara
neium y the man that has not left the house; nikup tinigcevminy
the cup that I shall drink.
23. Comparison. This is made by a direct statement with
the compound preposition baran for *than*: halan nivagasien
tisimbauve baran tiigky another commandment is not greater
24. Form. I have found no examples of substantive or
adjectival WB's used as simple verbs.
25. Transitive and Intransitive. There appears to be nu
difference of form between transitive and intransitive verbs.
li] The Central New Hebrides 307
26. Causative. The causative particle is not used with verbs
but is used with the numerals.
The verb rar^ to do, make, is used instead of a causative:
arar morot imeaury you cause a man to live.
27. Passive, There is no passive: nitnorsu revogot nigciniy all
people hate you, for ye are hated.
28 . Conjugation , The verb is conj ugated by prefixed
particles. These indicate person, number and tense, and also
condition and negation.
Indicative, An indefinite past or present tense is indicated
by short forms of pronouns prefixed to the word-base :
Sing. I. ne^ no. Plur. i incl. da^ de. Dual i incl. —
2. w. I excl. mZj met. 1 excl. tnur,
3. t. 2. a. 2. ar,
3. ra, re. 3. ur,
NeweTy I say; noorpit mbatin, I cut off his head; uleSy thou
seest; umetur^ thou sleepest; ilesy he saw; iorpity he cut off;
mirar, we make; catnem meilog^ we go; datogha^ we (incl.) go
up; awery you say; ralog^ they went; rerop^ they fled; mursumpy
we two sit; ar-rtrogy you two desire; urlog, they two went.
In the second person singular cu and in the third cey cUy co
are used, apparently in subordinate phrases.
A definite past is indicated by the adverb wro, already,
following the verb: imes nrOy he is dead; mirog nro ei iweVy we
heard him say; neher nro nivutUy I have brought my son.
The syllable ^r or^^^ infixed after the verbal pronoun appears
to indicate a present tense: nigcewer, I say; nigcohu bigcaniy
I give to thee; nigcarar, I make; mtgceles, we see; augcicelaUy
you seek; igcigcelaUy he looks about; regctgilau, they seek, are
I find this form also with nro: igcicelau nrOy (when) he had
The future tense is shown by the particle vi infixed after the
verbal pronoun: nevimbwtl, I will smite; uviwer, thou wilt say;
ivigcur? he will do (what) about it,? iviwelig, he will come;
devlogy we will go; mivihuy we will give; avirogy you shall hear;
revihuy they shall give; arviminy you two shall drink.
I have rarely found this form in the third person singular
where c with a changing vowel is used, with or without v or vi:
nimorot celog dilin temen en hineny a man shall go away from his
father and his mother; cevroTy he shall do (work).
3o8 The Central New Hebrides [pt
29. Negative. The negative is shown by the infix 5 after
the verbal pronoun and before the particle, with ve suffixed to
the verb: deslesvCy we did not see; usmetave^ thou dost not fear;
nigceswervey I do not say; arsroghurvej you two do not know;
ismesvey she is not dead; nigcesviminvey I will not drink; mis-
vihuvey we will not give; resroghurvey they knew not; islogavSy
he does not walk.
30. Interrogative. This is shown only by interrogative
pronouns or adverbs: cules neium iigk rombumbau? (dost) thou
see houses these great } cules nisten ? (dost) thou see anything ?
31. Mood. Imperative. The imperative is shown in the
singular by cu prefixed, in the plural by a, agce: cuvihink nunky
show thyself! ales! behold ye! agcusump! sit ye! arog ei! hear
' Let ' is indicated by the phrase ihy it (is) good : He nigcint
deveiy let us go (lit. it is good we go).
The dehortative adds the negative infix s and suffix ve:
cusmetave! do not (thou) fear ! asmetave! do not (ye) fear !
32. Subjunctive. The verb in a subordinate sentence does
not diflFer from that in the principal sentence, except that cu
and cCy cUy etc. appear in the second and third person more
frequently than u and i. The subordinate sentence is introduced
by wuty so that, then: nihava et urtrog wut nigcaraty what then
dost thou wish that I do; reroghur wut iwety they knew that
he spoke ; urles wut nevit ilimpilitnp cahal nrOy they saw that
the stone had rolled away.
33. Conditional. The conditional is shown by the prefix 5,
sty sUy if, followed by the verbal pronoun or particles; et or
cen wut introduces tne consequence: sinigcemisy if I die; sin-
dewety if we say; sugcurogy if thou wishest; sigcevihi nivohon
ambat tieiy et corur kinagky if I touch the border of his garment
then he (will) heal me; sugcesvaltsbaave, temen nigcint tito
lemeligk cesvalisbaavCy if you do not forgive, your father that
stays in heaven will not forgive.
Mzvin is used for doubt : ikumbwe mzvin itnes nrOy he wondered
whether he was already dead.
li] The Central New Hebrides 309
34. Directive. These have not been determined.
35. Interrogative, Geie? when? Geie tiigk ar revewelig?
when will these (things) come .'*
Atnbi? where? Ito atnbi? it is where?
Cen heven et? why? Cen heven et ameta? why do you fear?
cen heven et uwer bigcen kinagk^ ule? why dost thou say to me,
thou (art) good ?
36. Time. Origk^ now, agcemetur origk, sleep on now; ran
nilius tagy then, on that day; wuty when, tout iweligy when he
came ; nro, already ; levehaty in the morning ; livahat rigregy early
in the morning; livrapy in the evening; livaat^ at night; lerig^
by day ; bthumany beforehand ; dal^ again, remetur dal^ they slept
37. Place. Ekigky eiigky engky here, agcukok eiigky sit ye
here, ekigky he is here ; wutiny there, istove touting he is not there ;
masasagy near; sileiy far; liumy in the house; lembusaivon^ in the
country; verCy on land; laUy on the sea; hitivsuny to the other
side ; levantisy in the midst of the sea ; livu nin aty in the midst
38. Manner, fiwiaf, greatly, earnestly; baragcenytT\x\y\ cen
ohoiieriy in vain; ishbtmbarav€y suddenly.
E! yea ! yes !
No, noniuy like, is a verb: renonin shipshipy they were like
sheep ; neles nimorot ar reno naai relogalogy I see men they (are)
like trees they walk.
39. Locative. Le, in, written as a prefix: ludy in the river;
lemeligky in the clouds; lenamap, in the sky.
Ran, on: ran naaiy on a tree; i metur ran nenre, he lay on a
bed; retitelimp ei ran nimbatiny they struck him on his head;
ran nauagky in a ship.
Bcy bay beiy to (motion): balaUy to the sea; bei Kapemauniy to
Bei is used with the locative prepositions: beliuniy into the
house; relog bei ran meruUy they went on to a mountain; baran
nauagky on a ship, by a ship.
Bigcen (dative). This takes the suffix pronouns in the
3IO The Central New Hebrides [PT
singular : itoer bigcen ety he said to him ; nigcewer higcant^ I say to
thee ; cuomp ei bigcen anibwir ar^ throw it to the dogs ; reswerve
bigcen nihumor^ they did not tell any man.
Dilin^ from, out of: dilin naueiy out of the water; dilin ei,
out of him; dilin niinaUy out of the crowd.
HuTy about, concerning, by, along with: roghuty know, hear
about; isimbau hur ei, he kneeled down to him; cevihink hur
netiSy he taught by the sea; trokoh nro hur eiy they had been
In (instrumental): in navaran, by her hand; in nimbogon ar,
with their lips; in nitutamatieUy by prayer; nirovun irar in at,
the chief worked with them, by them.
Nin (genitive): livu nin tout, middle of the place.
40. Nouns. Ta, tanin, after: ta kinagk, after me. This may
be combined with bi = ba, to: bita kinagk, behind me.
Humany before: human ran noom, before thy face; human
nunky before thee.
Ran noon, before : ran noon niinaUy before the people.
Cf. also the adverbs.
41. Copulative. En, and: temen en hinen, his father and
mother; ninal cevmetamet en nevul cesviharvCy the sun shall be
dark and the moon shall not shine.
42. Adversative. Or, but: neten cevlogcahaly or nagcuva-
gasien cevislogcahalvCy earth shall pass away, but my words will
not pass away,
43. Disjunctive. /, or: livrap, i livaat bimbaragceny i wut
netau ititarlety at evening, or in the (real) night, or when the
44. Illative. Cen wuty so that, wuty that: en wut irog nro
wut lesu nin wut Nasaret iweligy and when he heard that Jesus
of place Nazareth came.
45. Conditional. There is apparently no word for * if.' Cf
46. Causal. Andewer, because of, for: andewer kinagk, be
cause of me, for my sake; andewer nivagasien tiigk, for th
There is no introductory phrase for a quotation.
ii] The Central New Hebrides 311
47. Cardinal. Ese^ cese^ one ; truy coruy two ; etilj three ; ives,
four; eliniy five; isautise^ six; saurUy seven; — , eight; sauvei^
nine; ilagabuly ten,
C in c^5e, corM is probably pronominal, i, ^, are verbal
The unit above *ten' is tima : ilagahul ise nin timan ise^ eleven ;
ilagabul ise timan irUy twelve.
The tens are counted by simple numerals following : ilagabul
etily thirty; ilagabul ivaveSy forty (i.e. four times ten); ilagabul
elirriy fifty; ilagabul isause, sixty.
Ilagabul ilagabuly one hundred ; ilagabul ilagabul ivairUy two
The English tousandy also tausaUy is used for 'a thousand/
but I also find; ilagabul ilagabul ivalagabul irUy two thousand,
and tausan ives, four thousand.
48. Ordinal. These appear as though verbal nouns with the
article and suffix ien: niiruietiy the second; tiliariy third. But
elsewhere I find: niaur ivaisauveiy ninth hour; niaur ivaisausCy
sixth hour, in which ivaisauvei and ivaisause are multiplicatives.
Tihutnan is * first.'
49. Multiplicative. These are formed by the causative
particle va which is not otherwise used in Sinesip: ivairuy
twice; ivaitily thrice.
50. Interrogative. The interrogative *how many?' is ive:
nitiptap ive aviien? loaves how many you have?
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Ray, Sidney Herbert, 1858-1939.
A comparative study of the Melanesian Island
Reprint of the 1926 ed. published by the Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, Eng.
1. Melanesian languages. L Title.
i PL6201.R3 1978 499'.5 75-35151